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Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! PlayStation 4 Review

Part RPG, part dungeon crawler, part retro-wannabe Zelda, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku!, by developer Nippon Ichi Software Inc, is unfortunately never quite sure what it wants to be, presenting the player with a curious game packed with various concepts that never gel together into a cohesive, unified game and merely feel like different ‘ideas’ chucked into a blender, then poured out onto a plate for the players digestion. Hell, if I told you it was a dungeon crawler sans adventure game where an extremely creative owl let you paint via pixel art to draw your weapons and armour, then another let you create your friends from scratch, you’d look at me with confusion…  It’s unfortunate too, because there’s a game to be made here, what has been made though, is a curious beast, one that’s never truly bad, just never truly good either.

Gameplay:

Combat is ever so simplistic, with you fighting the denizens of dungeons to accrue experience and level up. The biggest issue I have, is that the hit boxes on the enemies are rarely ever fair, in some cases seem non-existent. Often enemy’s strength and ability are all over the place and the bosses are no different, with some weaker than the minions you face during the levels? This isn’t a total deal breaker as it does offer some challenge obviously and the hardest of us all will pick up that controller and accept it as such. Good on them, they’re sturdier people than I, that’s for sure. I think what got me, was that the actual fighting mostly feels slow and unrewarding, you’ll rarely feel threatened, even when overwhelmed because of the very fact that it’s too slow?

At the heart of Cladun Returns is its dungeon crawler element. Asides your standard fair dungeons for your story mode, there’s also ‘ran-geons’ (99 floor random-dungeons) and ‘tri-geons’ (triple ran-geons). I think my patience ran out the moment I realised, that some levels couldn’t be fully completed, which shocked me. That’s simply poor design and a problem I’ve found echoed across a few sites. The fact these levels were randomly generated was impressive, offering near infinite gameplay, but the fact I occasionally encountered levels that didn’t let me complete them due to a gate being blocked? That’s a deal breaker. When you get through a few dozen floors, only to find your progress hampered by the impossible? Come on. Maybe a patch is needed, maybe better path finding when generating, but there’s something amiss here.

But at the end of the day, the combat isn’t the most horrific ever. I didn’t hate it, I just felt it could be a lot better than it was. I can see the value in the ran-geons and the tri-geons and a lot of games won’t even attempt this, so kudos to the developers for being inspired enough to supply something like this to extend the life of the game and bring value to the purchase one may make. As much as I don’t like the controls (others may mind you), I must give credit where credit is due, and they do deserve it for that at least.

Graphics:

I’ve said it many times, when retro-pixel graphics are done well, they’re pixel-art, when they’re not, they’re just pixels. Cladun falls into the latter unfortunately. The camera is framed *so* close in on your character, who seems to take up a literal eighth of the screen, that it’s often hard to see what the hell is going on. The messy pixel look reminded me of games on my old Commodore 64, where colours bled into each other due to a limited palette, where limited animations were the order of the day and where poor controls were a staple aspect of the platform. These are all present in Cladun unfortunately, it’s not the worst in the world mind you, Troll and I in my books still holds the trophy for biggest train wreck, Cladun Returns is simply yet another retro inspired game in a slew of ‘me too’ games that misses the mark by a country mile and will be forgotten as quickly as it hit. The JRPG style pixel graphics could’ve been neat, but a lot of the pixels are far too blurry to appreciate. This is strange too, as when you are in the main town, everything is pleasant to look at, visually pleasing and generally fine, but when traversing the dungeons themselves, everything is bland to look at and rather uninspiring. One could argue this may be the point, but I can point to a plethora of games that make their dungeons spring off the screen visually, creating exciting looking locales for the player to navigate.

While I understand the need to strive for a retro look, we also want to see what we’re looking at. What makes this approach strange to me, is some enemies are crisp and clear while some look like they’re being viewed through a lens rubbed with Vaseline. Ground sprites suffer from this, with some again looking decent, while other tiles standing out making the player feel like they should get a glaucoma check asap. and some characters such as the owls, do have a decent identity, but most other characters are very poorly designed, presented and developed, resulting in a game with a total lack of visual identity.

Sound:

You can select between retro and modern music, I didn’t notice a great deal of difference to be honest as the music was decent fare but not that memorable, blending into the background after a while. In that sense though, this is fine as it wasn’t grating or annoying either. In game sounds were sufficiently retro and rather well executed, adding to the aesthetic, contributing to the idea I was ‘playing a SNES’ or some other machine of that era.

Value:

At the current time, this game is priced at 39.99 on the PS Store. I just cannot recommend it at that price. That’s my opinion, even considering the randomly generated nature of the ran-geons and the tri-geons. This pricing point feels excessive for what you’re purchasing. 30 maybe? 25 for sure. But 40 dollars feels too pricey to me. I’d highly advise waiting for a special before you go picking it up, also check out some play throughs on YouTube to determine if this is a game that will hold your attention.

Conclusion:

A uninspired game, with some decent aspects to it such as the randomly generated dungeons, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku!, is a game that aspires for greatness, but never manages to come even close. Let down by poor combat and execution, Cladun Returns is a game that could’ve been the sum of its parts, but unfortunately remains a haphazard grouping of concepts thrown together, never quite feeling complete alas.

Pro’s:

  • Random Dungeons
  • Tri-geons!
  • Sound is well done.

Cons:

  • Retro is overdone. Does nothing original here.
  • Sub-par gameplay.
  • Drastically overpriced.

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